Palin vs. Newsweek – How The Battle of Words is Shifting to Facebook Pages

Over the last week, we’ve watched as Sarah Palin and Newsweek have fought a battle of words over the magazine’s controversial cover image choice of Palin – with the battlefield being Facebook Pages. What is especially interesting is that both Palin’s and Newsweek’s Pages have seen significant bumps over the last two weeks – in Newsweek’s case at least, we believe this is in large part due to this controversy. Here’s some background and stats.

Sarah Palin, who has been using Facebook heavily to grow her fan base since last fall, has a new book out called “Going Rogue.” The book and its associated tour have not only been a boost for Palin supporters, it’s helping attract people to Palin’s Facebook Fan Page as well, with the page passing the one million Fan mark last week. For a national figure and former VP candidate, this popularity isn’t too surprising.

You may remember that Mrs. Palin gave John McCain a big bump in the polls when she joined the ticket last year – apparently, she can provide the same kind of bump for Facebook Fan Pages (especially when controversy is involved).

According to our PageData stats, prior to November 10, Newsweek’s Facebook Page had pretty flat growth for such a recognized brand, only gaining 2,100 Fans in the previous two weeks to sit at just over 40,000 Fans. The following day, November 11, the Page nearly matched that two week growth in a single day, gaining 2,000 Fans. In total, Newsweek’s Fan Page has gained over 58,000 new Fans with last week’s growth at 34,195 (or +52.96% – see chart below).

If all of this growth on both Pages had just happened as an indirect result of all of the exposure of this controversy, it would have been worth noting in and of itself, but there is another layer to this story – both sides have used their Facebook Pages as their choice medium to fight this battle.

On November 16, Mrs. Palin used her Facebook Page to respond to what she found to be a tasteless choice by Newsweek:

The following day, Newsweek – which is using the Palin cover as its Fan Page profile photo – then wrote a blog post pointing out that, “Palin denounced it—and us—to her million-strong Facebook following last night.”

What’s really interesting here is that Newsweek only wrote this response after Palin went directly to her Fans, even though there was plenty of other commentary on the issue prior to this (Newsweek of course also posted this on their Fan Page). Newsweek.com has integrated a Facebook Connect widget on the site.

Facebook Pages and Politics

When we look back on this episode, we might see this unfolding of events as a turning point where Fan Pages began to become the first choice online to rally the troops and put out a message. Even though Facebook’s recent News Feed redesign has throttled down the reach of less engaging feed stories, the potential reach and impact that posting to a Facebook Page has can be tremendous, and broader in many cases than is possible on Twitter or your own website. Add in recent tweaks such as Page owners being able to target Fans by language and location, and it looks like future “discussions” like this one could increasingly take place on Facebook Pages.